New skills and knowledge will be needed to support the ongoing evolution to an engagement center.
Emerging technologies have significantly impacted member preferences and expectations of contact centers. Members have historically become frustrated when pushed to an interactive voice response unit, wanting to “zero out” to an agent as quickly as possible. However, with the internet placing nearly unlimited information at people’s fingertips, members are not only becoming accustomed to trying to solve their own problems rather than relying on humans to help, but many are beginning to prefer it.
This, in turn, is driving the expectation that member service should be available 24/7. The rise of this preference for self-service is ironically accompanied by an expectation of “personalized” service. If a member has to “ask for help,” the resulting guidance should be highly tailored to the member’s preferences and quickly arrive at a resolution.
Fortunately, there are a few quickly maturing technologies—such as artificial intelligence—that can help members solve problems independently with this speed and personalization while using their preferred devices and apps.
The fuel feeding these technologies is data. By harnessing data via analytics, credit unions will gain insights into their members and their operations that drive a wide variety of tactical and strategic member care decisions.
In addition to improved decision-making via analytics, big data is powering the AI revolution. AI management platforms provide contact centers with the power to leverage bots to automate routine tasks, as well as to improve how humans address more complex member needs.
As these changes sweep through the contact center, every role needs to be reshaped to fit the evolving realities. New hires with specific domain expertise should be brought in to manage and leverage the influx of data and new technologies.
Agents: The Backbone of the Contact Center
While agents are incredibly important, they are frequently lower-skilled workers in unfulfilling roles, leading to a turnover rate of 30-45% (according to the Quality Assurance and Training Connection)—more than double the average for all occupations in the U.S. The high turnover rate contributes to low employee morale and causes significant recruiting and training costs for management.
This is an area where technology can help. Virtual agents and other forms of self-service will take over many routine tasks that bring monotony and boredom to today’s agents. AI can help improve agents’ work lives by increasing the number of concerns that members can resolve themselves via self-service. The tasks left for the human agents will consequently be the more complex ones that self-service tools and the machine learning algorithms of AI cannot yet master. AI can also assist agents in solving these problems by suggesting possible next steps or solutions.
Challenging work is more interesting and rewarding, and also requires higher skill sets. Contact centers will need to provide better training for their agents to address increasingly complex work. These jobs will also demand higher pay than today’s typical contact center positions and will provide experience that enables more career advancement opportunities.
Supervisors: The Mentors of Humans and Bots
When the nature of agent work changes, not only is the agent’s role transformed, but so is the supervisor’s. As the agent’s role becomes more sophisticated, supervisors must learn how to manage agents more like a coach manages players on an athletic team, motivating them to continuously improve their knowledge and skills.
Supervisors also must coach bots similarly to how they coach live agents to ensure they are performing well and achieving the desired results. This includes real-time monitoring of bots’ behavior and results and identifying areas for coaching to ensure continuous improvement. Successful supervisors are equipped to make some adjustments to bot performance including creating, tagging and classifying bot responses to improve results; reconfiguring which issues are handled by which bots and when to invoke a human agent; and setting up training sessions for bots to review and learn from sessions handled by humans.
The Research Team: The Data Analysts
With data now playing such an active role in the contact center, having a well-staffed research team should be a top priority. A contact center’s research team frequently uses statistics from automatic call distributor reports, quality surveys and staffing systems to adjust routing rules, suggest agent coaching programs and tweak staff schedules. Many of these employees worked their way up from jobs as agents or supervisors in the contact center and may even share the “analytics” responsibility with other managerial roles in the contact center.
However, to be successful in the increasingly competitive game of member satisfaction, a different approach is necessary. AI will drive self-service, agent training, agent assistance and analytics, and additional talent is needed to design and manage these new technologies.
Management: The Strategic Planners
Today’s contact center managers focus primarily on agent performance and member service metrics. Those metrics are then used to drive staffing, training and technology investment decisions. As member service expectations rise, the contact center is shifting from a cost center to a key strategic asset. In addition to lowering operations costs, managers must drive member satisfaction and improve business outcomes. Since technology and member care requirements are evolving so rapidly, managers should evaluate cloud-based solutions that can better keep pace with these changes, hire and train staff who can most effectively use these new technologies, and develop processes and metrics for determining success.
While the evolution of the contact center to an engagement center isn’t something that can happen overnight, credit unions must be making strides now if they want to succeed both today and in the future. The credit unions that make their call center staff more specialized and find a balance of AI and the human touch will be well poised to better serve members, more efficiently and effectively fielding their requests in a digital world.
Steve Kaish is SVP/product marketing and technology partners, Glia, New York.